Climate Change? Let “Boudhas” sprout in all corners of the world!
Going daily around the Boudhanath Stupa had been one of my treasured activities during my previous studies in Nepal. Now that the pandemic and the circumstances keep me at home, I miss this simple walk around this sacred and powerful representation of the Buddha’s mind.
In this way, I feel fortunate to be able to spend this year’s spring semester here in Crestone, Colorado/USA. During my stay here, I can walk to the Enlightenment Stupa that Tsoknyi Rinpoche has enshrined on his land in 2005. As I am walking through the cold winter air, letting my mind be free from the online study focus, I rejoice to be able to go to such a sacred place. Here too, people come very regularly to the stupa to relate in their way to such a sacred structure. It is very heartfelt to see offerings of food, money and flowers left at the Stupa; sometimes even “untraditional”, but nonetheless heartfelt offerings of plastic figures, condoms and gun bullets.
While Buddhism is so new to this country – something is being communicated through the mere presence of this structure!
As I walk back through this mountainous area, I notice that my beloved Juniper trees are all looking very brown. I fell in love with the Juniper tree, when I saw it used in Boudha for daily sang/smoke offerings by the monasteries, at the stupa and by private households. It’s central for many purification rituals – and it smells so good! In my past visits to Crestone, I had therefore easily made a connection with this tree – and am now even more saddened to see it in distress. And to clarify: I am not talking about one single tree, but the entire species of Juniper trees that I can see. I am looking up the US forest service’s information page and receive the confirmation of my assumptions: The changing weather patterns are killing the tree. There are no beetles or diseases involved – for years now in South Colorado all the way to Flagstaff Arizona, trees are dying due to drought and changing weather patterns. This is an area of over 500 Miles diameter – thus we are talking of millions of trees.
Yes, this is a “science” information. Study in Buddhism has in many ways made me question and analyze many stories that I otherwise would have swallowed “wholesale” with my gullible mind. Yet, the story of climate change keeps standing out as a monolithical story for which Buddhism has not proven to have presented many helpful answers in return. In my recent research around this topic, I found few Buddhist teachers to speak out and analyze what is on the mind of so many people I know. The most helpful voice has been David Loy, who points clearly to our disconnect with Nature and to our dualistic attitudes that contribute to this disconnect.
The general answers to address climate change seem beyond the individual (large scale divestment of fossil fuel money, investing in alternative energy by more than one country, etc.) Therefore, I see others and myself underestimate the individual impacts that we have. But we shouldn’t. The chase to dig up and burn fossil fuel is rooted in the demand of the body of consumers. That body is us: you and me. The last years of pandemic, which minimized travel, have been reported to help minimize air pollution and decrease greenhouse gases.Our study online and not travelling to Boudha, has had a positive effect on the planet! How many other small acts can contribute to the change of our global warming trajectory that endangers not only trees, but the extinction of many hundreds of animal and insect species (not even talking about the dangers it brings for humans)?
In this way, individual actions towards any large goals, can have large positive effects, unimaginable to the individual. The beginning of the Boudhanath Stupa for example, is rooted simply in a wish of a poor woman to make an offering to the Buddha. The woman Jadzima or also known as Ajima, had so much devotion and inspiration that she was able to move her community to build the Boudhanath Stupa, which is now benefiting so many beings thousands of years later!
In general, it seems easier to create something (a stupa) than to abstain from something (use fossil fuel). And it is in this way that I see the wisdom of the tradition: Stupas are said to have the power to purify one’s environment, through balancing the elements. They are said to pacify earthquakes and droughts, reduce illnesses and bring good fortune and blessings. In short, they are to represent goodness and protection through the power of the three Jewels. Could it be that in this way the creation of a stupa would be the ultimate building project of our times?
To answer this question, look in your own mind right now and see if you have a little bit of faith in the power of the Boudha Stupa. Either because you experienced its magnificent presence or you truly want to experience it. And if you do, could it be that building such a structure would also benefit the community you are living in right now, be it in Mexico, Europe or Asia? I think so, if just for the obvious reason that creating and relating to a representation of the Buddha’s mind seems indeed a way to pacify and draw our mind into wholesome mind states of ease, inspiration, generosity and peace. Such relief can result in much fresh creativity to meet the challenges of our times. But what do you think? Feel free to leave a reply below this essay.
May all our practices lead to the increase of the awakened mind within all our communities!
~Kerstin Kuebast Shoho
 David Loy, Ecodharma, Wisdom Publication, Somervile; 2018.